Required Reading: Park Avenue Pedestrian Traffic Safety Plan

imageIt is hard to stitch Commodore Barry Park into the fabric of Fort Greene without addressing traffic on Park Avenue.  The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project and Architecture for Humanity New York have put together a Park Avenue Pedestrian Safety Plan that should be required reading for local leaders and concerned citizens alike.  What do you think could or should be done to make Park Avenue safer?



Let there be light, and so much more!

soccer_nightBREAKING NEWS:  The proposal to turf the slab in Commodore Barry now includes lights!  Lights mean more fun for everyone.  When adults take advantage of extended hours that leaves more daytime play for kids, and we all get a safer park in the bargain. And while we’re talking upgrades to Commodore Barry, it is worth explaining that “turfing the slab” is only the beginning.  The ultimate hope is that a new multi-use sports field with lights will promote a total makeover of the baseball fields and other facilities to serve even more sports.  The Parade Ground in Prospect Park is a good example:

Map of the modern Parade Ground by Christian Zimmerman Drawing courtesy Prospect Park Alliance

Prospect Park Parade Ground boasts baseball, soccer, football, and multi-use fields

And for the growing population of joggers beating their knees and ankles on the Fort Greene Park loop, the cherry on top could be a rubberized “Mondo” running track like the one in McCarren Park.


Rubberized “Mondo” running track in McCarren Park in Williamsburg

Let’s hear from you.  What other sports or activities would you most like to see find a home in Commodore Barry?  Please vote in the poll below.  Choose a sport, or add your own in the “Other” box, and press the vote button.

DNAinfo Gets the Scoop on Commodore Barry!

The Commodore Barry Park proposal got some nice ink in DNAinfo today.  Click here to read all about it.  Excitement is finally building for a real home field in Fort Greene!   The plan promotes organized youth and adult sports, but if the Dustbowl players do get displaced, my door is wide open to discuss possibilities for pick-up play in Commodore Barry. Itai and Dwayne know how to reach me directly, or just reach out here in the comments.  Speaking of the Dustbowl, I noticed that grass is really thriving in the area recently fenced off for re-seeding on the Dekalb side of the oval.  Goes to show how quickly, and robustly, the lawn could come back when given a chance to do its thing.  Does this mean the cicadas are next?!?


The Pitch for a Pitch in Commodore Barry Park

For those who have never spent time in Commodore Barry Park, it is a beautiful park right here in Fort Greene that happens to sit at a major crossroads of Brooklyn neighborhoods, surrounded by bike lanes and greenways.  This little photographic tour illustrates the case for a mixed-use turf soccer pitch there.  The park already boasts two baseball fields, a sizable swimming pool, two basketball courts, two hand ball courts, a paddle ball court, a large playground, and a newly landscaped greenspace with shady trees and chess tables.  Every inch of the park has a purpose, except that big, unloved concrete slab in the top left corner of this map…


Here is a panorama of “The Slab”…


If the Parks Department agreed to turf this lot, with some capital assistance from community partners, it would be an instant home for soccer (and mixed use athletics) in our neighborhood.  It could serve local youth leagues and schools who lack access to fields, and it could give adult leagues a home field.  Such all-ages appeal would attract families…and hopefully food trucks.


Plenty of room in the shade for permanent seating for fans


A vast unused space in the developing Navy Yard and Admiral’s Row district

Community events, like the popular Afropunk Fest in late August, could absolutely still do their thing on turf.  Folks can flock to this corner of the park (at Flushing Avenue and Navy Street) where a nexus of local bike paths and new bike share routes connect Fort Greene to other destination neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, and Dumbo.


At the crossroads of Brooklyn’s busiest bike routes and greenways

The Navy Yard and Admiral’s Row are right across the street.  Admiral’s Row was transferred to the City last year, supposedly for development of a major supermarket for the 13,000 residents of the three housing projects nearby.  Suffice it to say the immediate area is about to get busy.  In the shadow of the BQE, Commodore Barry’s brightening presence can also bridge the discouraging divide of Park Avenue and stitch the Navy Yard district into the fabric of Fort Greene…


Just two blocks for Fort Greene’s other historical park!


A green oasis in the shadow of the BQE

Inviting food trucks into the mix, as they exist in Red Hook and elsewhere, is an exciting possibility.  Commodore Barry is full of potential parking locations, under the BQE being perhaps the most intriguing, and weatherproof…

photo-2 copy

Plenty of all-weather parking, especially for local entrepreneurs with food trucks


Now a divide, Park Avenue could be a seam sewing the fabric of Ft. Greene together

And lastly, it is worth mentioning that the park has a park station with restrooms…


A large park station with restrooms

There is so much to love about Commodore Barry Park, and recent improvements are proof that the Parks Department wants it to be a community destination.  Turfing the concrete lot just seems like the perfect finishing touch to the park’s facelift, and would solve a critical lack of local fields available for wildly popular local sports like soccer and football.  I look forward to discussing this exciting proposal with local leaders and neighbors alike, and encourage everyone to chime in by voting in this blog’s polls (click here) and sharing your thoughts in the comments.  Thank you!


Two baseball fields are a sea of green where neighbors come to play and cheer



A permanent home for local sports in Brooklyn’s greatest neighborhood!

While we’re at it…

photo[1]Let’s address the drainage problem on the East side of the oval, along Washington Park.  The ponding seems to be getting worse.  As you can see from the close-ups below, it extended all the way to the Willoughby Avenue entrance this[2]photo

Get to know Olmsted and Vaux


A petition is circulating to bring grass back to the dustbowl, that further intends to install a dedicated astroturf soccer pitch in the middle of the oval.  The grass part sounds wonderful, but the astroturf is problematic on several levels…

•  Astroturf is not just a carpet.  It would require a concrete slab to be poured under the entire footprint of the pitch, and might require a fence.

•  The oval would necessarily become a permitted sports area just like the tennis courts, meaning soccer players would need to organize teams, secure permits, and schedule playing time.

•  Fort Greene park is a landmarked park, and astro-turfing a central lawn in an historically preserved Olmsted and Vaux designed park would be next to impossible.

That last one is the real kicker.  Fort Greene Park was landmarked along with an adjoining swath of brownstone blocks back in the 1970’s.  Many people living within the landmark district know how stringent a concept landmarking can be.  Preserving the historical character of our park is a burden we bear, but it is also what makes our neighborhood so popular, for better or worse.

Some may say, “But what about the tennis courts?  Why do they get to be there?”  It may be that tennis courts were part of the Olmsted and Vaux design, and so any update would have been permissible.  Curiously there is some unsubstantiated evidence to suggest that the oval was originally a croquet field!  As referenced above, the tennis courts are permitted athletic fields, and any proposed soccer pitch would fall under the same regulations.

On a somewhat related note, the dustbowl players are circulating a photograph that claims to show “football” players in Fort Greene Park in the 1870’s, tagged with the comment “As Olmsted and Vaux envisioned it!!!!!”  In the sense that there is grass on the ground, yes.  Otherwise, one can’t really tell whether the activity captured was soccer, or football, or rugby…or whether a dot in the air is a ball, or a dot.  One thing is for sure, the photo was taken before Olmsted and Vaux’s park even existed.  Their plan was implemented after that photograph was taken, in fact, Fort Greene Park was not even officially Fort Greene Park until 1897…until then it was known as Washington Park.

From website:

In 1867 landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, designers of Central and Prospect Parks, were engaged to prepare a new design for Washington Park and a crypt for the remains of the prison ship martyrs. At the top of the hill was a trellised walk approaching two flights of steps that led down to a circular parade ground in the northwest corner of the park. Olmsted and Vaux proposed that the rest of the hilly site would be “somewhat closely planted, and . . .so laid out that it will offer a series of shady walks that will have an outlook over open grassy spaces.” Washington Park was renamed for Fort Greene in 1897, less than a year before Brooklyn was consolidated into greater New York City. The street that bounds the park on the east is still known as Washington Park.

That “outlook over open grassy spaces” line certainly strikes a chord today.

And while we are on the subject of history, did you know that Commodore Barry Park was the first park in Brooklyn?  Fort Greene Park was a close second!  Regardless of which came first, our neighborhood is blessed with two amazing, historically significant parks.  One is landmarked, increasingly crowded, and suffering a dustbowl.  The other is not landmarked, underutilized, and suffering a desolate concrete slab.  If we can find a way to serve the needs of both our parks, they can serve ALL of Fort Greene, and take a positive step towards bridging the divide that has existed across Myrtle Avenue for a century or more.  There is so much density in our area today, from housing projects to glass and steel high-rises, and since Fort Greene’s growth shows no signs of slowing down, we need both our fine parks to thrive.  Let’s come together and get to work on a greener future for our historic hood!  Anyone who wants to get involved in the conversation about the Commodore Barry Park proposal, click here, and speak up in the comments, and click here to make your vote count in our community polls.  Thank you!